Director, Producer and Retired Pali High Teacher Invited Back to Berlin Film Festival Nearly 50 Years Later
By LILY TINOCO | Reporter
Palisadian Kerry Feltham most recently retired from teaching film and English at Palisades Charter High School when he found himself asking: “What next?”
He was pleasantly surprised when he and his wife, Diane Grant, were invited to the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival to celebrate a double screening of his documentary “Chicago 70”—which originally screened at the same festival almost 50 years ago.
Feltham spent years producing and directing films and commercials. He had experience working with Warner Bros and Fox. He was also the only American to win a prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1983 for his short film, “Too Much Oregano.”
Grant was a professional actress in Canada—Toronto mainly—and had a professional theater company of her own. Grant and Feltham actually met as he filmed the play, “Chicago 70.” She played the female lead.
“Chicago 70” is a 16mm color film version of the play that includes excerpts of the 1969-70 trial of the “Chicago 8,” also known as the Chicago conspiracy trial, and Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.”
“The stuff from the trial was from a word-for-word transcript and the audience couldn’t believe it,” Feltham said to the Palisadian-Post. “It was an outlandish trial, which we tried to convert into something more deliciously outrageous, and people really loved it.”
Feltham shared that the trial was very important at the time and the picture was very successful. It ran for a long time in Washington, New York and Chicago, and won the Forum of New Cinema award at Berlin’s International Film Festival in 1971.
“We had such a blast, we had such fun and saw some really great films too,” Grant said about the trip.
“Suddenly something from 50 years ago turned into this … big screening, people asking for our autographs,” Feltham said. “It took me back for sure, and it was very nice after 25 years of teaching at Pali.”
Feltham shared that becoming a teacher was a turning point in his life.
“There comes a time when work becomes thin on the ground in show business, and by the time I was in my late 40s, I thought … ‘This is probably a good time to do something else,’” Feltham said to the Post. “It was a very different life to be a teacher … I had all these wonderful kids who I keep seeing, and I’m very, very fond of them.”
Feltham added that his past students catch up with him as they see him around town and throughout the neighborhood (a hot spot seems to be Palisades Garden Cafe), and he is always happy to hear that there are students going on to make films of their own.
“I just talked to one kid yesterday, he came up to me in the streets and said, ‘Guess where I am? I’m at Cal State Northridge doing films,’” Feltham said.
And just because Feltham’s retired, doesn’t mean he’s going anywhere anytime soon.
“We’ve been here [in the Palisades] for roughly 45 years … we’re probably gonna stay.”
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